I am starting to think I sound like a broken record around the constitutional guarantee in Canada of “Peace, Order and Good Governance”. Many in electoral reform circles like to focus on the method of electing officials instead of the first step being unity of the citizens. As ideological entrenchments begin to outstrip collective good, Americanized fear based media mongering creeping into the Canadian narrative, we are now seeing an entrenched Urban versus Rural mindset.

I have family that lives both sides of this developing divide. Those who are in Rural Alberta, and Urban, I am an urbanite that enjoys the pace and community of the smaller centre life. Some would say the provincial collapse of the PC Dynasty is to blame, but I would point out in that dynasty neither group got effective representation as they could have had. Currently some would point to the NDP-UCP fiasco and that perpetuating the divide, I would say there is plausibility to that theory.

What is hard is that in the current discourse of society we enjoy to out shout someone, to keep our argument to 240 characters (I don’t know whether to thank Twitter for the increase or not), never give ground acknowledging someone else’s point is valid, always seek the one solution for multiplicity could not be possible and that surely there is not shared concerns. I could easily pull a conservative rural troll argument on an Urban issue to prove a point, but I will invert- Jason Kenney, his politicking on the issue aside, tweeted an Okotoks RCMP crime watch picture of thieves…was the response some decent kudos and retweets—no it was the vitriol. We all share these from our area when the police issue them, we even share them from other jurisdictions, but we have become entrenched in the belief that our concerns can’t possibly be the others.

Instead of Rural Albertans and Urban Albertans—howzabout a simple statement, We are citizens of Canada, that live in Alberta (or Albertans). In fact, I would challenge the Alberta Government to look at creating exploratory committees on issues differently (and yes this is the party of the majority, the loyal opposition, and all other elected MLA’s).

Crime is something that is a province wide concern. Rurally you have a mixture of long-term settlers; reserves and colonies (colonies being of Hutterite, Mennonite and Dukhobor), plus persons with disabilities, an aging population. What are you seeing? Oh, an urban population just spread out over more land? Amazing when we talk about who are neighbours are in context what it means. It means though more spread out where someone coming home, as my wife did 3 years ago, will notice shattered glass and a robbery to call police right away, or someone in the yard is only feet away from the house and call the police right away…it means on a large farm it may be a call to the RCMP detachment that services a county of many farms/villages/colonies/etc. with a few constables. It may be reporting what has been stolen, but not right away as you were not in that building every day and just noticed it. It could be hunters poaching animals on your land during hunting season as one of our MLA’s has been found guilty of doing. We know drug use is rampant in both settings, but we know pipelines come through smaller centres (20 years ago it used to follow the old still lines via Water Valley) and then distributes through new city subdivisions down to the core. Same issues, different complexities.

Health Care. We know the idea of population based health care. Leveraging home care so individuals can stay in their homes longer. The need for mental health supports. All these things we do by population numbers (and trust me in urban settings like Calgary we do not have capacity). Yet rurally they have the same instances per capita, yet more spread out, and continually seeing closure of facilities. No, it is not just like travelling via transit or circle road to the next quadrant to access that care or relative who has moved. In some cases it becomes hours via highway to the next level of care or housing. Urban dwellers voice concerns when families are separated due to coding systems and stressors. When quantity of life, and the number a person is, is placed over quality of life. Rurally, it can be whole counties that separate spouses due to their “code” of care. It can even be moving from one town to another, coded to one home, then one physically needs higher physical care, and even in a lower use jurisdiction when there is a two bedroom available and all the experts sign off, the powers that grant housing say NO because the codes are different. No context taken in, not quality of life looked at.

Yet whether you live in a city or rurally, you watch your elders, your children, who are in need suffer. You watch as the need for access to mental or holistic care is denied because you either live in a city where wait lists are huge, or in a rural place where the population does not allow and must travel. Travel is not always a plausibility.

Education… many factors in, we complain about cold days this winter in Calgary, but what of the same weather that literally shuts down bus routes in some areas, how many days are lost? For that time is there some technological solution to ensure all Alberta students regardless of residence receive the best education possible?

Poverty reduction—better term: Improving the affordability of life.

Caring for our seniors so their golden years can be adventuresome not fighting for survival.

See…the political system wants you to view where someone builds a life as another way to create an us-them divide. BUT WE ARE ALL IN THIS.

I propose, and it is out there now as open source policy for any party that wants to think outside the ideological box:

Committees of research and reconciliation be struck to explore these topics in real time. They need to be all party committees. But I challenge some points to really get into the flow (for the action research projects you can use a TRC model or World Café, as they allow the story up to now to be told, but then the impetus becomes on the solution moving forward as one):

  • The chair needs to live in a riding not in the setting (Rural chair needs to be from one of the 7 cities; Urban chair needs to be from rural ridings)-if a government MLA chairs one, the official opposition MLA needs to chair the other.
  • Membership needs to be made up of leading community leaders of the area; but also of some experts on the topic, and MLA’s from the various parties with no majority given to any party.
  • The reports need to grow policy recommendations for a new system that serves all Albertans (if taken federally, all Canadians, because let us be honest it is time to look at the Constitutional Division of powers and what reality of 35-40 million people need to be supported in a globalized world).
  • The role of the legislature with the tabled reports is to work with this as the premise to grow from, not to create partisan hot potatoes.

Other points to improve our democracy:

  • If the premier comes from a rural riding, deputy premier needs to be named from an urban riding, if the opposite does not exist in the governing party they must name from another sitting MLA.
  • Learn from the Yukon, if Premier is non-indigenous, Lieutenant Governor should be named from Treaty or Metis Nations or one of the Colonies as noted above in the article that make up our mosaic.
  • Amend laws for all electoral districts that one must live in the riding they are seeking to be an elected official in. Paper/parachute/write-in candidates cost our system money through vetting and printing of ballots. If a party cannot locate someone to run under their banner in said area they do not run a candidate, running a full slate is not a given.
  • Eliminate PAC donations (I would propose eliminating all donations and just provide free radio air time for the direct candidates’ campaign not the party, and have a certain number of debates set up that the person must attend unless they can document why not (i.e. Sickness).
  • Create a mechanism to encourage more independents to run by allowing Elections Alberta to issue tax receipts for their reported donations lists (if donations continue).
  • All donors’ lists must be ratified by a trained accountant and publicly posted no more than 1 week before vote time (so no fundraising last week of election-that is if donations can persist).
  • Sidebar, the federal idea of bailing out local newspapers has merit in renewing democracy if as part of the money they must carry 50% local content by local writers/photographers, and at least 1/5th of content must be to be looking at politics providing editorial space to a range of voices. Y’know what newspapers were like before conglomeration.

These are my ideas. I am what one would call “post-partisan”. I have always looked at the local candidate to conclude on my vote. Yes, I ran in 2006 for the Federal NDP, but I have also worked with the Federal PC Party and Federal Liberals, so meanderings with Greens and Communists and many other smaller parties and independent candidates. Remember parties are a functionality of our system, not how our system is designed to work so these things and others, are possible to create reform that bring us back together, united in our diversity.

A true Canadian Mosaic.

First we must see them as us, and us as them, or better yet, as neighbour, as citizen building a better future together.

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